Goldsmiths University confirms independent probe into antisemitism claims

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Goldsmiths University confirms independent probe into antisemitism claims

Goldsmiths, University of London, confirms it is consulting the Equality and Human Rights Commission, with a view to appointing a barrister to begin investigation into antisemitism "at the College" later this summer.

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Goldsmiths University (Source: twitter)
Goldsmiths University (Source: twitter)

Goldsmiths, University of London, has announced it has agreed to allow an independent review into claims of antisemitism at the institution.

In a statement, the London university said it was consulting with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) over good practice on the matter, with a view to appointing a barrister to undertake this work beginning later this summer.

It was confirmed the probe would cover claims of antisemitism “during this academic year, including those linked to Goldsmiths Students’ Union. ”

Goldsmiths also confirmed that Professor Frances Corner, Warden of Goldsmiths, has also offered public support to Jewish lecturer Dr David Hirsh, from the Department of Sociology, who was the subject of unjustified comments made on social media earlier this year.

Jewish News reported last month how Hirsh had been insulted online in messages posted by former student union leader Sara Bafo and other activists, including a claim that the lecturer was a ‘far right white supremacist.”

After Goldsmiths management had asked the student union trustee board to investigate Bafo over her remarks she then doubled down stated Hirsh was a “Zionist Goldsmiths academic” who had an “explicit racist history” through his criticism of the Decolonise Education campaigns run by the NUS.

The Twitter account of Goldsmiths University College Union re-tweeted the SU President’s accusations against Hirsh, saying that it stood in “full solidarity” with her and was “100% behind her”.

Confirmed an independent probe, Goldsmiths said:”At the meeting of Council it was also decided that Goldsmiths will hold an independent review into antisemitism at the College to ensure that Goldsmiths’ processes and protocols are able to address reports of such behaviours appropriately.

“This follows reports of antisemitism received by the College this academic year, including those linked to Goldsmiths Students’ Union.

“The College is consulting the Equality and Human Rights Commission about good practice on such a project, with a view to appointing a barrister to undertake this work beginning later this summer.”

Professor Corner added “We are supporting Dr Hirsh after unwarranted messages about him were posted on social media which I believe are utterly without foundation. These kinds of behaviours are completely unacceptable and will always be challenged.

“As Warden I want to make it clear that this kind of conduct is not in line with the College’s values and that it brings harm to individuals as well as our good reputation as a place of learning.”

Goldsmiths lecturer David Hirsh

In a statement on his London Centre for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism website, Hirsh said:”The tweets are antisemitic because because they impose upon me the identity “Zionist”, a word that means, in this context, “racist”.

“This understanding constructs the overwhelming majority of ordinary Jews and Jewish institutions as evil.

“The tweets are antisemitic further, because “far right white supremacist” means “Nazi”. Denouncing Jews as Nazis is antisemitic.

“Some colleagues who are, as I am, UCU members, tried to persuade the branch to delete the tweet and to apologise. Excruciatingly, an argument is raging in my university about whether it is fair comment to say I am a Nazi.”

But Hirsh said the announcement of an independent investigation by Goldsmiths was “the first time that it has ever recognised that it might have a problem of antisemitism.”

Meanwhile, the same statement also confirmed that Goldsmiths was adopting both the IHRA definition of antisemitism, and the most recent Jerusalem Declaration.

It said:”Goldsmiths is adopting the two definitions of antisemitism to reflect the views of the College’s academic community, which favoured the Jerusalem Declaration over the IHRA definition.

“Adopting both gives the College greater scope when considering potential issues. The College is clear that the adoption of these definitions does not prevent criticism of the actions or policies of the state of Israel, as applies to any other nation state and government.”

The university added it was also adopting the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia.

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